How CodeMonk got over 100 customers by building strategic partnerships and optimizing its user expansion funnel.

CodeMonk has gone from 0 to 100 customers over the past few years. Read Maulik's biggest takeaways on how he grew CodeMonk to over 100 customers by focusing on user expansion.

How CodeMonk got over 100 customers by building strategic partnerships and optimizing its user expansion funnel.

In this post of "My First 1000 Users", we will cover the story of CodeMonk and how it got over 100 users by focusing on user expansion.

The content of this case study is taken from the podcast episode I recorded with Maulik Sailor, the founder and CEO of CodeMonk.

Prefer audio over text? Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcasting platform:
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Let's dive in.

How did Maulik get the idea of starting CodeMonk? How did he build its MVP and test his assumptions?

Much of what Maulik did at CodeMonk came from his previous experience as a product manager. Maulik had worked with many global teams and companies in his past job.

While working with global teams, he realized that excellent product teams generally have people from multiple time zones.

Moreover, as a product manager, he faced the constant problem of changing backlog. His in-house team was often stuck and was unable to upskill at the pace of the requirement of the project at hand. This led to people moving to different projects.

Maulik wanted to solve this issue. Moreover, he did not want to work a 9 to 5 job and wanted to leverage his skills to have a more significant impact.

So he got the idea of developing a platform that allowed clients to have a diverse team which they could deploy anytime they wanted and, at the same time, gave a more significant remote opportunity to the pool of talent unsatisfied by their jobs.

Maulik tested his model by reaching out to one of his previous clients from his product management days and offered them a no-risk guarantee to complete the project at hand using a virtual team at a lower price than an in-house team.

He then reached out to his connections on the talent side, formed a virtual team suitable for the project, and eventually managed to deliver the project. This validated his idea, and this is how CodeMonk was started.

Learning #1 - Don't underestimate your social network. Your first few customers will always come from your friends and closest network.

Maulik quickly validated his idea by providing value to one of his previous clients. Think to yourself, can your product benefit anyone from your network? If yes, go and start pitching. It's the fastest way to validate your idea.

How did Maulik find the first few clients for CodeMonk?

Maulik could not use cold outreach to get clients for CodeMonk since they were delivering digital products to the companies and the projects often included carrying and implementing sensitive information.

Maulik used his professional network instead. Since the companies were already aware of his and his co-founder's background, it became easier for Maulik to pitch them the services of CodeMonk.

Maulik tried to manually balance the talent and client side for the first few clients. After implementing the first few projects successfully, he used those projects to attract more talent to CodeMonk.

He slowly got a small platform going for the talent side of CodeMonk.

He then switched his focus back to acquiring more clients for his company.

But with the second wave of projects, he realized his talent pool lacked specific skills in high demand by his clients.

So he started leveraging platforms like Reddit, Quora and LinkedIn to bring relevant talent to CodeMonk. He also started investing in building a brand and creating content for organic reach.

One of the most successful channels that got relevant talent was LinkedIn.

Today the talent side of CodeMonk is purely organic as the developers are now aware of the brand.

The content and brand play have also started showing a positive impact. The company has a consistently growing LinkedIn following and hundreds of organic signups to the website each month.

Now Maulik and his team are working on growth hacking the client side of the business.

So far, CodeMonk's team was manually dealing with all their clients. An account manager was assigned to each new client to assist them in choosing the developers and implementing the project at hand.

But now, CodeMonk's team is developing AI tools to help take all the offline touch points online and execute them through a new platform they are working on.

Learning #2 - Slow and steady wins the race. Maulik's step-by-step resolution of demand and supply chain problems is one of the reasons for the success of CodeMonk.

As a founder, you need not find the ultimate solution when starting. Sometimes, handling the situation step by step also helps.

What is CodeMonk's blog content strategy for driving talent?

CodeMonk's team tries to put out their view of the future of work through the blog. They post a lot of content based on Web3 and decentralised organisations.

They also post content talking about upcoming development frameworks like TypeScript.

CodeMonk also has a segment called "Talent Speaks," where they call upon the developers working at CodeMonk to share their working experience.

Maulik is now investing heavily into building a discord community. He wants to build a community that can passively engage with them and believes in CodeMonk's mission.

Learning #3 - Your content strategy should cater to your target audience rather than SEO and algorithms. Learn what your target audience likes to consume and build your content strategy around it.

Letting your employees speak about your company culture also adds a human touch and lets the readers and future employees connect to your company on a deeper level.

How does Maulik manage work distribution between the developers associated with CodeMonk?

CodeMonk currently has around 100 customers and 7000 developers. There is currently a mismatch in both the demand and supply sides of the company.

For instance, there is a heavy demand for JavaScript developers from clients, so the company is trying to meet the needs by recruiting developers proficient in the JavaScript framework.

Similarly, they also have a supply of developers with a specialised skill set that is not in much demand from the clients.

Maulik believes as the company finds product market fit, the demand and supply cycle will become more streamlined.

How does CodeMonk vet developers?

All new developers at CodeMonk go through a 3 step screening process.

Step 1: The developers must sign up for the platform and complete their profile. A skill graph is created based on the developer's profile and previous work experience.

The AI then looks into the developer's skills and finds relevant work.

Step 2: The developers are given specific online tests based on the skill graph to test their knowledge. If they pass the skills test, their skills are validated. The tests are online and cannot be retaken, so their skills are not validated if a developer fails to qualify on the first try.

Step 3: After clearing the skills test, the developers have a one-on-one interview with experts. The experts test the developer's interpersonal and communication skills and finally approve him as a vetted developer.

Also, all vetted developers get a blue tick next to their profile, signalling to all hiring companies that the developer is proficient in his skill.

Learning #4 - Systems build trust. Every founder must look into building and systemising all critical processes of their workflow.

Since every developer at CodeMonk goes through a system of checks before being available for work, it creates trust and reliability in the eyes of the customers of the company.

The journey from 15 to 100 customers

After getting the first initial customers through personal networking, Maulik hired business development managers to build the customer journey of his clients.

His team researched ICP and talked to many hiring managers to understand the market's needs.

This process was followed by many A/B tests using email marketing, cold calling and lead magnets.

Maulik's goal is to replace LinkedIn in terms of developer hiring.

So the team also reached out to all people hiring developers through LinkedIn posts and asked them about the issues they were facing and how they could make CodeMonk a better platform for hiring.

The customer funnels were developed according to the research's feedback, and Maulik has slowly started seeing organic customers through the website.

CodeMonk's team tried four different strategies with their customers.

Direct outreach: The team directly reached out to potential companies and asked if they were hiring developers at that moment.

Cold Outreach: Collected data from different sales tools, sorted out potential customers, and ran them through email and cold calling platforms.

Ecosystem partnerships: Build strategic relationships with employer record providers. Building strategic partnerships while still being a small company was a task, but Maulik took it as a challenge and set CodeMonk apart from the others in the following manner.

  • They highlighted how they differed from their competitors in all their messaging and communication.
  • They experimented with their messaging.
  • They checked if there was a possibility of a two-way relationship and did not back down from providing value to their strategic partners in any way possible.
Learning #5 - You can't build a successful company without knowing your customers. ICP research is key to building a good client acquisition funnel.

Running ICP research and experimenting with messaging paid off for CodeMonk. They could crack the code of what their customers were looking for when hiring a full-stack developer team.

Beyond 100 customers

As CodeMonk grows, the team is looking to digitise many touch points between the customer and the talent.

Maulik plans to let go of some of the customers who need a lot of hand-holding as he aims to standardise their customer base. CodeMonk cannot serve every kind of customer at scale.

The company also plans to double down on content and brand building.

Learning #6 - Trust is your only ally when dealing with big projects and sensitive information. So make sure you're working on your company's content and brand building.

CodeMonk went from working with small businesses to closing enterprise-level clients because their brand building and content created a sense of trust and reliability among their clients.

What would Maulik do differently if he were to start CodeMonk today?

Maulik believes a good company is built by the efforts of great employees.

As a founder of a small startup, it was difficult for him to attract the best talent, so he initially hired anyone willing to work for him.

But he soon realised that those were not the best people to work with, and as the company grew, they created friction and cultural bottlenecks within the company.

Maulik had to clear out such bottlenecks, which was a tedious and expensive process.

If he were to start CodeMonk today, he would hire responsibly and wouldn't mind waiting for the right employee rather than hiring in a hurry.

What are the biggest failures of Maulik's founder journey, and what has he learned from them?

Maulik always wanted to start a borderless company with employees from all over the world. He believes in practical work rather than restricting people based on demographics and timings.

When he started CodeMonk, very few companies believed and adopted this philosophy of borderless work, and this is what made CodeMonk different.

But soon, the pandemic hit, and every company started hiring remotely. This made it difficult for CodeMonk to set themselves apart, and they got lost in the crowd of all other companies hiring remotely.

Instead of sticking to its core message of borderless employment and effective work, CodeMonk pivoted towards projecting itself as the best remote company to work at. This did not help, and the company soon reverted to its core messaging.

Similarly, since their competitors focussed on hiring and working with individual freelancers, CodeMonk also pivoted towards the same idea.

But soon, they realised their strength lies in hiring full stack virtual teams rather than individual developers.

Learning #7 - Building a startup is like solving a puzzle. It involves continuous iteration and learning.

But you must be ready to realise and accept your mistakes and correct them as soon as possible. Maulik made a rapid pivot to rectify his mistakes, which led him to build such a successful company in just two years.

Also, don't get influenced by what your competitors are doing. If you have the edge over your competitors, stick to your game.

The Bottom Line

You don't need to have everything figured out to have a successful business. Maulik still believes his company is in the MVP stage and has yet to find its product market fit.

But what has made his company so successful is the ability to continuously experiment, learn from his mistakes and make rapid pivots toward growth.

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